Mandel’s Mailbag: Is Luke Fickell’s new contract the best value in CFB? Did we underestimate NIL’s influence?

Dec 31, 2021; Arlington, Texas, USA; Cincinnati Bearcats head coach Luke Fickell in the tunnel before the game against the Alabama Crimson Tide at the 2021 Cotton Bowl college football CFP national semifinal game at AT&T Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports
By Stewart Mandel Feb 16, 2022 155
Well, it’s been an eventful several days in the Mandel household. On Saturday, we hosted my daughter’s sixth birthday party. Fairy themed. Good time had by all. Then on Sunday, we celebrated my birthday by watching a little football game on the newly-installed, dream-come-true outdoor big screen my wife surprised me with two days earlier. And that was all before our actual birthdays Monday and Tuesday.

All in all, pretty joyous, except, of course, for the outcome of said football game. But my friends back in Cincinnati have plenty to be excited about these days. In addition to the next great NFL dynasty sprouting up in their backyard, you may recall there’s another team in town that recently got very good at football.

(Note: Submitted questions have been lightly edited for length and clarity.)

Is Luke Fickell at $5 million per year the greatest value in college football? — Aaron W.

No, the greatest value in coaching is Nick Saban at $9.5 million last season. Somehow the guy with seven national championships is making the same salary as one-time national champion Jimbo Fisher and zero-time champion Mel Tucker. You could double Saban’s salary tomorrow and Alabama would still be getting every penny’s worth.

But Fickell’s new contract this week was definitely noteworthy. Not only is his new $5 million salary the highest of any Group of 5 coach, but if the new Big 12 lineup went into effect tomorrow, he’d be making as much as any other public school coach in the conference.